For four years I was an Assemblies of God minister and a monk with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at the Little Portion Hermitage. This is an excerpt from my unreleased book, Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes.
A Community Of Two
After I left the Little Portion, many people have asked me why I went there in the first place. Shortly after leaving, my typical answer was, “God wanted to make me a holy man in His sight.” This is true, but that is also God’s agenda in every person’s life. After Barbara and I started dating and I began seriously thinking about marrying her, I started to see another reason for my time at the community—God wanted to work on certain areas of my life so they would not be a burden to my future wife. The Lord wanted to rid me of as much of my selfishness as possible, because if He was going to entrust me with His daughter, I needed to be in the right spiritual shape in order to treat her as God intended. My time at the Little Portion helped me do that, and it was a girlfriend from high school who showed me that I’d changed.
In 1990, I went to California on vacation and visited some college friends in San Jose. While I was there, I called my high school girlfriend because I was in the area and I’d never met her husband. We had remained friends since high school (we stopped dating because I moved to New York and the relationship became geographically undesirable) and I was looking forward to seeing her. Since this was the first time she saw me in my habit, her opening line after a hug and a kiss was, “Well, you’re not hard to spot in a crowd!” As she got ready to leave, she told me she could see a change in me. “I no longer feel like an object in your eyes,” she said. Okay guys, admit it. When you were (are?) eighteen years old, you have trouble looking at girls in any other manner. Paul may have told Timothy to treat every woman as a sister, but that wasn’t our first choice!
The lesson for me is this: I am a better man now for having once been a monk for four years. Of course, not every male in the world needs to spend time in a monastic community in order to be a better husband. I tell people that I had (have?) a harder head than most and God needed to take some drastic measures before He was going to turn me loose on one of His precious daughters. The intense monastic lessons of obedience, sacrifice, communication, confession and leadership still serve me well as a family man today.
I also learned that God doesn’t waste a move. Whatever place you find yourself in now is a stepping-stone for where God intends to take you next. My time at the community was intimately related to who God wanted me to be as a man, husband, teacher, writer, friend, employee, stepfather and very young grandfather. My four years with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity was one of the hardest periods of my life, and I wouldn’t change anything about it.
I want to encourage you to accept where you are now as God’s choice in the process of where He wants to take you next. If you are single, I encourage you to embrace this time as a God-ordained period of your life. Beware of thinking that your loneliness will be cured when you get married. Some of the loneliest people I’ve ever met have been people in a loveless and joyless marriage. If you are not content with who God has created you to be and feel that the only way you will find fulfillment is in a marriage, then you will put a burden on your spouse that they will be unable to bear. I had to embrace those I lived with in the community before I was able to embrace and accept myself. If you cannot embrace the community of people who are around you now, you will never be ready to embrace the people God wants to lead you to.